Sunday, January 14, 2018

Spark vs. Dark...groping towards pre-gens


Not that anyone asked, but here are the pre-gens I have already written for the Dark vs. Spark Bruce County adventure. They'll get adjusted by playtests, of course, but this is what I'm starting with. The qualities and backgrounds are not yet written...this is mostly power sets and names.

In general, players are free to change one of the Qualities to make the character fit better for them.


Someone who has taken the Head-Heart-Hands-Health motto in a totally different direction, Foraitch has one ability that is quite different: a touch can transfer everything the target knows. That information might not be immediately available—it takes time to go through someone's entire life. Okay, balancing realism and game mechanics, let's say it usually takes an hour. Anything that hasn't assimilated when the next person is copied into Foraitch's head, well, that's gone.
Specialties Leadership Expert (+2)
Knack Spark
Power Mimicry
  Extra: Mental powers, Limit: extra only,
  Limit: takes time to process afterward (buy back Determination)
  Extra: Flight3
"Head, Hands, Heart, Health is my motto"
Loves animals
Quality 3?

Game Mechanics: I figure that though the memory transfer is instant, ferreting out the information can take time: When Foraitch is trying (that is, not fighting), a minutes per point of Intellect of the target. Without trying, it takes twenty minutes per point of Intellect.

If there is a particular piece of information (like the combination to a lock), start with 1 in the first "assimilation period" (ten minutes or thirty), and increase by 1 for each time period after that, up to power level. Test that number against the target's Intellect. The GM can modify this based on whether the information would be easily accessible: people just know their names and birthdays, but there might be slower recall about the events on a specific date. Or spend a Determination point and counteract the limit.)


A blatant ripoff of Jason Tondro's fabulous Frog Girl, but I liked the name-power match.

Lily is a student at Georgian College, studying law enforcement. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant, but they are Serbian, with a name granted to them on immigration. She is husky and tall, with acne outbreaks that sometimes go away with the switch from Lilypad. (The name started when she started saying her own real name and then had to fix it.)

Lilypad (Lily Patrick)
Specialties Investigation, Law
Knack Spark
 Extra: Invisibility; Limit: half effect if not motionless6
Aura (small spines)4
Super-Senses (360-degree vision)1
The curse of the were-frog
Social media maven
Quality 3


A bullied kid who escaped by dealing with farm animals and learning about animals as much as possible.

Menagerie can turn into animals, even imaginary ones. And as the fight continues, certain powers start to appear, which might turn Menagerie into a different animal.

Specialties Science (Veterinary), Medicine
Knack Spark
Transformation (animals)6
  Extra: Imaginary ones, too6
Nemesis: Limit: Preparation5
Quality 1
Quality 2
Quality 3


He's a farmer. Got a sizeable herd of dairy cattle, and a decent milk quota. And superheroing gets in the way, but darn it, someone's got to do it. And it makes getting lane clear in the wintertime so much easier. The Science and Technologies make up the farming trade, which is broad: he can fix a tractor, tell you what the good weather is for planting, help a cow with a breech birth, and so on.

Specialties Science, Technology
Knack Spark
Cold Control6
  Extra: Ice slide for movement6
  Extra: Ice armor (force field)6
  Extra: Telekinesis (Limit: snow/ice only; buys back Determination)6
Life support (cold)1
Quality 1
Quality 2
Quality 3


The wild kid, in the middle of his or her family. Races cars at the Sauble Speedway in the summer and is a mechanic the rest of the time. A DUI conviction in the past (maybe it's still current: maybe Speedway doesn't have a driver's license right now).

Specialties Driving, Technology
Knack Spark
  Extra: Defending6
  Extra: Surface Movement6
Dazzle (sound)5
Quality One
The simple pleasures: getting hammered and going fast
A dare? Well, then, I gotta.

Think Tank

Think Tank puts his or her mind in the suit and is essentially animating it...and essentially there, so though there's a certain Astral Projection quality to the power. He can animate other suits, but the fact is, fully articulated copies of people don't come around all the time. He or she has been building this one for a while, but it could be any articulated thing. This one has microphones and cameras and all such to see what's going on and act on it.

Think Tank
Specialties Technology
Knack Spark
  Extra: Rangeless6
  Extra: Telekinesis6
  Limit: Feedback
Damage Reduction (limited to material of the suit, but normally)6
Super-senses (telelocation)1
Animating the suit!
Quality Two
Quality Three

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dark vs. Spark as a genre...character creation


I've been thinking about the adventure I've written for the Dark vs Spark world (All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner). I felt like the standard ICONS origins weren't quite right, because all of the heroes we see are Transformed (though birthright heroes are mentioned as a possibility).

So you could do point-buy, because you ignore the effects of the origins. That might be what I do.

Besides Transformed, I can imagine possible Trained, Artificial, and Birthright origins. Gimmick is essentially relegated to "a Spark created this artifact." Unearthly *might* be possible. I'd rather relegate those two to "if you have a character concept that uses one of these, talk to the GM, but for random character creation they aren't common enough to roll." (I could be talked out of that.)

This is what I came up with in three minutes of thinking...

Most origins grant you the knack "Spark," which gives you the effects of the Halo from the book, and lets you defend against the effects of the Dark. If you get Spark, it doesn't cost you a Determination point—it's part of the book (or the genre, if you will).

Roll for origin, but the choices are seriously limited. *Any* roll but doubles is Transformed. (As in the standard rules, and you get the knack "Spark.")

For doubles:
1,1 or 2,2 or 3,3Birthright. You get the knack Spark and the standard benefits.
4,4 or 5,5Trained. Even though you're not a Spark, you've decided to fight crime. Unlike the other origins, you don't get "Spark" but you get +4 Specialties instead of +2. As in the standard rules, you can still trade in a power for two more Specialties.
6,6Artificial (your essence has/can move into an object). You get "Spark" and the standard benefits.

Because the book makes a big deal of your one-line character description defining your powers, well, that sounds like a Quality to me. So define your character with a Quality and you can change one (1) power or add +2 to a power to fit the "Spark elevator pitch." (Maximum is still 10, of course.)

Does that seem too restrictive or is it enforcing the book?

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Library Golems


I haven't used these, but they were inspired by a set of tweets that Mary Anne Mohanraj posted on her Facebook feed:

But it's not out of place for a superhero game to have a mystic library, and for that library to have mystic protectors... Hence these "book golems".

Book Golems

The book golems are spirits that roam the library. Treat them as ghosts, or astral projection without bodies: they can fly on the astral plane, pass through things (and there are very few rooms in the library protected against ghosts...because they would not be able to let these guardians in...but the library as a whole is protected), and have a great deal of trouble affecting things on the physical plane. They are not clever, but they do have a certain awareness. (In ICONS, they exist as the Servant power.) Vistors to the library are given protective tokens that identify them. Employees of the library are their own tokens: there is nothing to steal, and the attunement takes some time, but it can be revoked from a distance.

The library is decorated with headless statues of stone or bronze. The statues have books lying at their feet, which are never cleaned up—which seems odd, when the rest of the library is meticulously (even magically) tidied and organized. Here's why.

When the golem needs to take form on the earthly plane, it animates a statue, and places a book on its neck. From then on, the statue has the abilities described in the book (represented as variable abilities in the Servant description). Until that book is removed (a +2 difficulty to the task), the statue cannot change books. The book can be burned off, of course, but they are fire retardant; the statue can be immobilized, or the spirit can leave the statue, either by being exorcised by a puissant-enough magician or because its job is done. If the body is destroyed, the spirit is free to animate something else.

The books around the statues tend to be biographies of famous fighters, rogues, wizards, and so on.

If there is no statue around, the book golem can build itself a body entirely of books. It is not as tough as a body of stone or bronze, and more prone to flying apart if there is a sudden impact, but it has happened. The sight of an inukshuk of books stomping towards you does tends to give thieves pause.

There are ways to get around them. The book golems are not nearly as fierce on the astral plane, so they can be fought or imprisoned on the astral plane. It is possible that someone could switch the book before it is placed on their head so they have the abilities and skills of a renowned pacifist. There are a limited number of these spirits, so one could, in theory, turn off the protection for all the librarians and trust that the book golems will be busy with them instead of your operative.

Book Golem (Spirit form)
Incredible (7) Astral Projection, no body
Incredible (7) Servant, Extra: Variable Limit: Abilities depend on book
  • Ghost
  • Protect the library!

Book Golem (Statue form)
Incredible (7) Alternate Form: Stone (Damage Reduction 7, Strength 7)
Weak (1) Super-Speed
Fair (4) Magic: Any other abilities
  • Ghost
  • Protect the library!
  • Book is only Damage Reduction 3 versus fire

Book Golem (Books form)
Average (3) Alternate Form: Books(Damage Reduction 7, Strength 3, Slashing from paper cuts 3, Stretching 3)
Weak (2) Super-Speed
Fair (4) Magic: Any other abilities
  • Ghost
  • Protect the library!
  • A moderate result on a slam or stun makes the body fly apart

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Drop-In delayed, dammit


I dunno if it's food poisoning or what, but since about 1:00 this afternoon I have had a fever and have been unable to sit at a computer for any extended time, and that might be too many details for comfort. I re-scheduled my late afternoon appointment and I'm just dealing.

I apologize, folks. This was totally not the plan.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Reminder: ICONS Drop-In tomorrow


Yup, gonna try the old ICONS Drop-In again tomorrow at 7:30 pm. Yes, that's a twist: It starts a half-hour later. Though I'm in the city, I have a 5:30 appointment, and I want to make sure that I'm back and y'all are not left cooling your heels. Pictures on, sound on Hangouts.

We dealt with K-OSprey last time, and the incidental threat of Hermetico, and discovered the truth about Mr. Geist!

Ah: there's the setup. This week, the mystical realm holds sway as we deal with the curse that holds Mr. Geist on this plane of existence, and the kidnappings of a number of students who were interested in Potential Expansion Training.

Pre-gens will be available (as always) but if you contact me sometime today, I can look over your character or we can build a character together.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Action scenes


The heart of comic books and comic book games are action sequences. While the players have a reason to be invested (they don’t want to lose the fight), a lot of fight scenes are boring. I ran across this recently: John Rogers on action scenes in movies. (This isn’t actually the one I was looking for, but I think this one is more generally useful.

To sum up: Don't write action sequences. Write suspense sequences that require action to resolve.

Yes, there will be a Drop-In tonight!


I know, it's late to promote anything, but there will be an ICONS Drop-In tonight at 7:00 EST on Roll20 for pictures and Google Hangouts for voice. I'll find the Roll20 link and edit it into here, for them as want to play for the first time and has a Roll20 account (and it's free, so why not?). (That link: )

We'll wrap up the K-OSprey story, but it's certainly at a point where anyone can join.

The story so far:

K-OSprey, Strange City's most notorious and lethal criminal (our Joker) killed the only child of billionaire Joshua Darcy. Earlier today, Darcy offered a ten million dollar reward for the person who K-OSprey and provides him with the body or incontrovertible truth. (He figures his lawyers can keep him out of jail.)

The heroes have deposited K-OSprey in what they hope is a safe place, and now they're dealing with at least one of the people who wants that ten million dollar reward...and Mr. Darcy has yet to be dealt with.

Known about K-OSprey:
  • Possibly multiple personalities, at least serious mood swings from criminally comedic to dadaistically lethal
  • Prefers to be called "it"
  • An apparently infinite number of winged harnesses, many with slightly different abilities
  • A gadgeteer of some repute
  • Not common knowledge: The players know that he can't actually be killed at the present time: Heaven won't take him and Hell doesn't want him, so he's effectively Immortality 10

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Setting Material I'd Like To See

SYSTEM: Almost any superhero setting

Over on the ICONS Facebook group, I started listing setting material that I'd like to see for a superhero game. Obviously, these ideas might not apply to a game with a very different setting, but are assumed for a Big Two kind of environment.

Warning that this might be highly idiosyncratic and others won't care.

For this post, I've collated them and added reasons why they'd be player-facing, rather than just cool setting details...because if the players can't interact with them, they're better off as one-line descriptions that you can steal for your games.

I mean, I'm going to write these if no one else does, but it would be much easier for me to just buy them. :)

  • The religious group that quite literally worships supers, though they've had a schism: most think that supers are blessed by God, and the others think that supers are gods.
  • Nine Realms I picked nine out of a hat: the idea is multiple descriptions (somewhere between three and ten). None of these are huge descriptions—maybe a half-dozen pages, plus some npcs. They fall into two groups: The PCs might go there, or the realm might launch an invasion.

    Places the PCs might go:

    • So you'd have the three hells as one realm
    • the Astral Plane (if you can find a way to make it interesting: you can make the Astral Plane also the realm of the Lost Dead Souls)
    • the Dreamworld

    An invading force:

    • Urbtech, the realm of computers and logic, where magic doesn't work
    • a dimension that, like a shark, must conquer other worlds or fall to the rot within
    • Maybe an invading dimension random generation chart

  • The Darwins is the organization that helps people who have just discovered their powers; it helps them get adjusted, learn to master them, and integrate back in the larger society. But some people suggest that they have a hidden agenda. Like maybe they're behind some accidents that cause superheroes? Maybe they're rooting for the mutants to take over. Maybe they're trying to foster human-mutant cooperation, but like the famous intervention experiment in the 1930s makes things worse.
  • Hoodlums is a chain restaurant decorated with a superhero/supervillain motif, where all the waitresses wear skimpy versions of costumes, and which has a structure that leads to a certain number of them having supervillain groups on the payroll.

    The inspiration for Hoodlums is a friend of mine (James Nicoll), who included this gem in a bit of backstory for his character, a villain turned hero who at one point discovered that the heroes don't care if you've clearly labelled the porn featuring actors in their costumes as "a parody" and beat you up anyway. Which, combined with thoughts on sexism in comics, made me think of a restaurant that quite literally uses and institutionalizes that sexism.) The real question to me is how to make it player-facing. Oh, you can drop stuff in as a setting detail ("We went to Hoodlum's last night") but how do you make it personal for the players? Well, if their costumes are on display without their permission; if someone else is using their Hoodlums costume while committing crimes (I mean, no one is going to think the player did it, but it still looks bad). Maybe a particular restaurant is a front for, as James had, pornography using the player characters' costumes. (That could be very trigger-y or, with the right players, it could be funny: imagine playing out the discomfort when you discover that your cis hetero hero is a gay icon, and that the actor wearing your costume has starred in a successful series of films.)

  • One Percent An action group that is trying to paint supers as being the actual privileged as opposed to people who just have most of the money. Clearly funded by a group of wealthy people whose private motto is, "Being rich is the best superpower."
  • The place or person who handles medical needs for heroes/villains/vigilantes, which may or may not be the same as provides medical needs for mutants or aliens. This is mostly a practical need, but it might tie into the database mentioned under "Supers fight club," below.
  • The Ark, a living facility for supers with special needs for living, started by some member when he or she realized that the available choices were a government institution. With help from some acquired lost Thulean gold, the Ark was built. If there are diplomatic relations with the Atlanteans, they might rent part of it out with water as living space. Other rooms contain red sunlight generators, maybe gravity generators if your tech is wobbly enough, atmospheric containment and such-like. The kitchens are a nightmare.
  • Supers fight club, but I’m trying to think of an angle that isn’t Roulette or Unlimited Class Wrestling. The intent is to give players an excuse for fights and fight training. Tying it in with some kind of “heroes database” would be useful, because then you have a rationalization for bad guys who know your player character “tells”. If it's set up as coercive, maybe the players could rescue someone from it, or from an abusive manager. It might be where newcomers and has-beens go, the former to learn, the latter to recapture a bit of fading glory.
  • A list of gigantic world-ending threats that the other (NPC) heroes in your setting have to deal with, so your players have to deal with the threat that's "only big."
  • I have been thinking of a hero group. They're in a band. (This was partly inspired by seeing the Good Lovelies in concert last night.) Tickets sold with a disclaimer because there is a non-zero chance of a supervillain attack during the concert. I don't think they'd do a lot of superheroing, but they've done a bit, and accumulated some bad enemies. Heh—you could drop individuals into a campaign by introducing them after the band has broken up. And someone is trying to kill them...a celebrity stalker or a cape killer? (This might be better done as an adventure.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Drop-In this week


I have to go in to Toronto tomorrow so that eats up the time between 5:45 AM to7:00 PM. if I’ve just got home at 7:00, I can’t start a game at 7:00.

I migh have to find another night for this if Wednesday becomes a go-to—Toronto day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

That’s juicy

Reading about Fred King, the polygamous and abusive pastor of a fringe church near Chatsworth has me totally wanting to include an abusive cult in this adventure—should it be Fred King style, or Alison Mack style?

Decisions, decisions.